Marketers seeking to drive further learning, impact purchase behavior, and increase campaign reach, especially to light TV viewers, should look toward Internet marketing to reach those goals. That’s the conclusion of a pair of studies by online marketing firm DoubleClick.
By highlighting situations in which the Internet is most effective, the studies help underscore the medium’s growth toward maturity, as media planners and buyers work to find its rightful place in the media mix.
The first study, conducted by surveying 1,800 respondents about their interactions at brand “touchpoints,” found that word of mouth, sales personnel, and various media had differing effects on purchase behavior, depending on the stage of the purchase process.
Researchers looked at nine product categories ? prescription drugs; automotive; travel; health and beauty; electronics; mortgage and insurance; movies; telecom; and food ? in order to understand how consumers learn about products, how they gather more information about them, and what most influences their purchase decisions. For the purposes of the study, the purchase process was divided into three stages: building awareness, further learning, and purchase decision.
In the building awareness stage, television and word of mouth played the strongest roles. More than half (51 percent) of respondents first learned about new movies on TV, 20 percent discovered new health and beauty products via the medium, where 18 percent were introduced to telecom products, and 10 percent learned about prescription drugs. Word of mouth was even stronger in this stage, though, with 24 percent of respondents reporting learning about new cars from friends, family, and colleagues. In the health and beauty category (22 percent), mortgage and insurance (24 percent) and the telecom (24 percent) categories, word of mouth was also a strong driver of awareness. Internet marketing had a strong impact on building awareness in the travel industry (cited by 41 percent of respondents), but not in other categories.
The Internet, which included Web sites, online advertising and marketing, and e-mail, made its greatest impact in the further learning and purchase decision stages. It was a top-three influence in almost all categories, during both of those stages. Still, human contact, via sales personnel, beat out the Internet in many categories. Sales personnel ranked as the number one source for further information in the automotive (44 percent), mortgage and insurance (39 percent), electronics (32 percent) and telecom categories (35 percent). For each of these areas, with the exception of electronics, they are also the number one influence on the purchase decision. Word of mouth also played a major role in the last two purchase stages. It was one of the top three drivers of purchase decisions in every category, except travel and prescription drugs.
Although the study shows that online advertising had very little impact in the brand awareness stage, the researchers did find that it was highly effective at getting customers to company Web sites.
The second study, which DoubleClick undertook with Nielsen//NetRatings and IMS, looked at online advertising’s role in the media mix. It found that shifting television media dollars to the Internet could increase reach ? especially to light television viewers considered desirable to marketers.
Researchers used WebRF, a reach and frequency media planning tool developed by Nielsen//NetRatings and IMS, to model what would happen in campaigns if TV dollars were shifted to the Internet. The study involved marketers like American Airlines, Subaru, and Kraft Foods, and it reached conclusions that echoed those of similar cross-media studies conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
The main differentiator between this and the IAB studies is that the researchers focused on light television viewers, believing that these people were more attractive to marketers. (A DoubleClick spokesperson wasn’t able to provide its definition of “light television viewers” by press time.) The online portion of the target audience, said researchers, tended to watch less TV, and were also younger, more affluent, more educated, and more likely to be a professional.
In the American Airlines example, the researchers looked at what would happen if the airline increased online spending from 5 percent to 15 percent of its overall budget. The change would result in more than three million additional consumers being reached, increasing the percentage of the target audience exposed to the ad from 61.1 percent to 64.3 percent. Among light-to-medium television viewers, the gross ratings points (GRPs), commonly used to measure television campaign effectiveness, increased from 34.9 to 44.1.
In the Subaru case, the researchers looked at what would occur if online spending was increased from minimal levels to 7 percent. They found that frequency of exposure increased from 3.98 to 4.11 impressions in light television users, but, among heavy TV viewers, the frequency actually declined ? from 35.6 to 34.3.
Kraft Foods’ campaign was focused toward reaching women aged 25 to 54 with children, to sell them on Oscar Mayer Lunchables. The researchers modeled a scenario in which online spending was increased from nothing to 15 percent. In this case, there was an overall increase in reach to the intended audience (from 83 percent to 87 percent), likely because women with children have been found to be heavy Internet users.